Zawahiri killing and al-Qaeda-Taliban nexus, how terror kingpin’s death impacts India

Al-Qaeda’s reclusive chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, who played central role in 9/11 attacks and later created the group’s regional affiliate in the Indian subcontinent, was on Tuesday neutralised in a US drone strike in Afghanistan’s Kabul, in the biggest blow to the global terror network since killing of its founder Osama bin Laden in 2011 in Pakistan.

Confirming the death, US President Joe Biden said that Zawahiri, who assumed the leadership of al-Qaeda after the death of bin Laden, was killed in a drone strike carried out by CIA on Saturday evening at a house in Kabul where he was sheltering to reunite with his family. 

According to officials, Zawahiri was on the balcony of a safe house when the drone fired two missiles at him. Other family members were present, but they were unharmed. The strike comes one year after Biden ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, prompting Taliban forces to rapidly seize control of the war-torn nation.

Impact of Zawahiri’s elimination on India

Officials say that Zawahiri’s killing is likely to blow to al-Qaeda supporters and affiliates in India, but expressed concerns over the Taliban sheltering him in Kabul saying such facilities may also be extended to terror outfits mainly targeting India.

PTI quoted officials saying that Zawahiri’s killing is likely to dent the morale of al-Qaeda supports and cadres in India. Recently, they were conducting waves of propaganda campaigns and trying to rebuild the al-Qaeda organisational machinery in India.

Zawahiri’s failed Kashmir bid

Zawahiri had for years tried to get into Kashmir with little or no success. However, his terror outfit has been consistently threatening India. 

The slain terrorist has in the past likened Kashmir to Palestine, and has also criticised Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia for supporting India. 

Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, the al-Qaeda affiliate to operate in India, was formed in 2017 but was finished after the terrorist Zakir Musa was eliminated by India’s security forces in May 2019.

In 2014, Al Zawahiri issued his first statement on India, speaking about Islamic unity.

In April, Zawahiri’s 8.43-minute video clip was released by the terror group online in which he had praised a Karnataka college student for confronting a group of students opposing hijab in her college in early February.

However, the girl’s father distanced himself from Zawahiri’s comments, terming them as “wrong” and said he and his family were living peacefully in India.   

About Al-Zawahiri

Zawahiri was constantly on the move once the US-led invasion of Afghanistan began after the September 11, 2001, attacks. At one point, he narrowly escaped a US onslaught in the rugged, mountainous Tora Bora region of Afghanistan.

He made his public debut as a Muslim militant when he was in prison for his involvement in the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

By that time, Zawahiri, a young doctor, was already a committed terrorist who conspired to overthrow the Egyptian government for years and sought to replace it with fundamentalist Islamic rule. He proudly endorsed Sadat’s assassination after the Egyptian leader made peace with Israel.

He spent three years in prison after Sadat’s assassination. After his release, he made his way to Pakistan, where he treated wounded mujahideen fighters who fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

That was when he met bin Laden and found a common cause, the CNN reported.

“We are working with brother bin Laden,” he said in announcing the merger of his terror group, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, with al-Qaeda in May 1998.

“We know him for more than 10 years now. We fought with him here in Afghanistan,” he had said.

Together, the two terror leaders signed a fatwa, or declaration: “The judgment to kill and fight Americans and their allies, whether civilians or military, is an obligation for every Muslim.”

Originally published at www.dnaindia.com

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